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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 09 Mar 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESurf.

Enhanced rockwall retreat and modified rockfall magnitudes/frequencies in deglaciating cirques from a 6-year LiDAR monitoring

Ingo Hartmeyer1, Markus Keuschnig1, Robert Delleske1, Michael Krautblatter2, Andreas Lang3, Lothar Schrott4, and Jan-Christoph Otto3 Ingo Hartmeyer et al.
  • 1GEORESEARCH Research Institute, Wals, 5071, Austria
  • 2Chair of Landslide Research, Technical University of Munich, Munich, 80333, Germany
  • 3Department of Geography and Geology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, 5020, Austria
  • 4Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Bonn, 53115, Germany

Abstract. Cirque erosion contributes significantly to mountain denudation and is a key element of glaciated mountain topography. Despite long-standing efforts, rates of rockwall retreat and the proportional contributions of low-, mid- and high magnitude rockfalls have remained poorly constrained. Here, a unique, terrestrial LiDAR-derived rockfall inventory (2011–2017) of two glaciated cirques in the Hohe Tauern Range, Central European Alps, Austria is analysed. The mean cirque wall retreat rate of 1.9 mm a−1 ranks in the top range of reported values and is mainly driven by enhanced rockfall from the lowermost, freshly deglaciated rockwall sections. Retreat rates are significantly elevated over decades subsequent to glacier downwasting. Elongated cirque morphology and recorded cirque wall retreat rates indicate headward erosion is clearly outpacing lateral erosion, most likely due to the cataclinal backwalls, which are prone to large dip-slope failures. The rockfall magnitude-frequency distribution – the first such distribution derived for deglaciating cirques – follows a distinct negative power law over four orders of magnitude. Magnitude-frequency distributions in glacier-proximal and glacier-distal rockwall sections differ significantly due to an increased occurrence of large rockfalls in recently deglaciated areas. In this paper we show how recent climate warming shapes glacial landforms, controls spatiotemporal rockfall variation in glacial environments and indicates a transient signal with decadal scale exhaustion of rockfall activity immediately following deglaciation crucial for future hazard assessments.

Ingo Hartmeyer et al.

Interactive discussion

Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Ingo Hartmeyer et al.

Data sets

Rockfall Source Areas, Kitzsteinhorn, Austria (2011-2017) I. Hartmeyer, R. Delleske, M. Keuschnig, and M. Krautblatter

Ingo Hartmeyer et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Rockfall size and frequency in two deglaciating cirques in the Central Austrian Alps is analysed based on six-year rockwall monitoring with terrestrial LiDAR (2011-17). The erosion rates derived from this data set are very high due to a frequent occurrence of large rockfalls in freshly deglaciated areas. The results obtained are important for rockfall hazard assessments as in rockwalls affected by glacier retreat historical rockfall patterns are not good predictors of future events.
Rockfall size and frequency in two deglaciating cirques in the Central Austrian Alps is analysed...